Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Boxing Day

Boxing Day. The day to wake up late, snooze on the sofa, recover from the rigors of the day before, dream about the days to come.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dancing Violins to Make You Smile

Seasons Greetings! A bit of whimsy make you smile in this, our turbulent 2011/12.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The English Oak table

My big old English Oak (no longer available according to the repairman) table was damaged on the way across the Tasman and was so wonky I was afraid it might collapse on whoever leaned on it. Three weeks ago the specialist repairman picked it up and today it returned, solid as a rock.
English Oak table, 25 years old and as good as new.
I had become used to the scratches on the tabletop but it has been revarnished, so I will have to start taking care of it again. I made a set of batik chair covers to protect the chairs (re-upholstered in Dunedin) from the sticky finges of small guests.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Glass and Gandhi

Today I saw Philip Glass's opera Satyagraha about Gandi's life in South Africa, the latest of the New York Metropolitan Opera productions.  (If you are an opera fan and have not yet discovered the Opera in HD series being played at movie houses all over the world two weeks after opening night, you are missing something very special.)

Satyagraha reminded me of Wagner's operas because it plays on two levels at once. The words sung by Gandi and other characters in the opera are all discourses from the Indian philosophical text the Bhagavad Gita and are sung in Sanscrit. (Surtitles translate the essentials). The story is told in action and improvisational puppetry, performed in this instance by the wondrous The Skills Ensemble.

Satyagraha: Photo form the Metropolitan Opera Website
Sanscrit text and puppetry action sounds weird but it works. The weaving of philosophical questions through the action turns out to the intellectually and emotionally very satisfying. The music is both meditative and thrilling. If you have a chance, go and see it.

Review by Opera and Medicine 
Review by Jeffrey Johnson

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Moon eclipse

I saw the moon eclipse last night. The moon was reddish as predicted and very eerie. It was unearthly in a strange way and I am glad I woke and saw it. A reminder of how small and insignificant we are. Judging by the news of squabbling at the climate summit in Durban, we are not only insignificant but not clever enough to save what we have from ourselves.
Moon eclipse begins, but my little digital camera did not capture the red tinge and eerie feel of the moon, let alone all the bright stars around it.
NASA has a great little video of what I saw.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ceramic Violin Wall Plaque

There is something charming about ceramics that is hard to put your finger on. Is it because we know they are made from clay, or is it the colours? I am not sure. This 'ceramic violin' piece was made in 2010

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Fly screens

In March when I painted the peeling window frames I took off the fly screens and put them in the garage to paint later.  I found them again the other day waiting patiently in the corner, so out came the paint pot. I finished the job today and screwed them back into place.
La Nina is bringing Sydney lots of showers and very cool weather, but hopefully summer will eventually turn up and I will need these screens.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Christmas Lights

If you need a little pre-Christmas cheer you should come to my house at dusk. You can't help but be impressed by the lights on the house across the road. As dusk turns to dark Christmas carols flood the street, lights twinkle and cars drive by slow motion, or stop to watch.
The proud owner tells me that buses will be driving by to have a look as well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sydney ...

I love Sydney and as I sort through my Sydney paintings I find I have a lot of the Sydney Opera House, a building which has an aura about it not unlike that of Uluru.  Perhaps others like this building as much as I do, and for them I have a Christmas special this year
Sydney Opera House (2008)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Garage shelves

At last, 7 months after moving, I am screwing together my Ikea shelf. It is probably the tenth time this shelf has been dismantled then reassembled. One of the wood props is a little bent and it is a fiddle to assemble. The ants had been busy in the corner of the garage. The planks propped there were covered in ant eggs, so I took them outside and lay them on the grass while the ants scurried around rescuing their eggs.
After assembling the shelf I realised I had measured the garage corner incorrectly and the shelf doesn't fit. So I have stopped for a cuppa while I figure out whether to put it somewhere else or if I should bite the bullet, unscrew it and start again.

Later: I unscrewed my shelf then screwed it together again in the smaller configuration but it still didn't fit. But it fits sideways and that is perhaps better as I will be able to check it for ant activity. Ants are very active in Australia. When I first arrived here I put some boxed ceramics in the garage. A couple of weeks later when I unpacked them they were full of ants eggs. Luckily I had stored ceramics and not paintings in the boxes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jacarandas at Patonga

Last Tuesday I joined my local 'paint out' group despite cloudy skies as it was the first Tuesday since I moved here that I have had time to join them. The group painted at Jacaranda Avenue in Patonga (NSW).
Watercolour: Jacaranda tree in Patonga

The ground under the trees was carpeted in purple, so by next week this view will be green/green instead of purple/green. Jacarandas might be pretty, but they don't provide any food for local birds so I wont be planting them in my garden.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ducks in Woy Woy

Ducks are some of my favorite creatures. Their body construction makes it almost impossible for them to hurt anyone (try pecking with a duck-bill, or punching with a flipper) but  ...
their mothering skills leave a lot to be desired. Ducklings seem to survive more by luck than good management.
This mother duck took her eleven very little ducklings on sightseeing tour through the back streets of Woy Woy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wagner homage in the garden

In among the Agapanthas and palm trees sits my largest ceramic piece: Homage to the Music of Richard Wagner
What people have said about Wagner's music and what Wagner said about himself,  are inscribed along its belly.
Would Wagner be surprised that a ceramic piece called Homage to the Music of Richard Wagner sits in an Australian garden? Oh no, I don't think so. He would probably regard it is only fitting.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Garden dancers

A little bit of fun from the ceramics workshop.
These dancers ....
now dance on the old BBQ in the garden.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Our throw-away society

The knob on my coffee machine got so tight it now needs a spanner to turn it. The place I bought the machine has closed down so I rang the makers (Sunbeam) to ask where I could take it to get fixed. They gave me the address and told me to take the original receipt.
Coffee machine, spanner and small ceramic music bowl made at NAS last year.

"That's all okay, " said the man behind the counter after he had had a look at the receipt. "You can take it home again."
"But the knob doesn't work."
" Oh you'll get another sent to you within a week or so."

 Addendum: the new machine arrived today (14 Nov) - a newer and much flasher model. Ah, but will it make better coffee?

Sunbeam coffee machines : Old Model 1400C on the left and new model 4820 on the right (with functioning knob).

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Little fridge, big fridge

Is a barfridge big enough? My experiement started yesterday when I bought a bar fridge from Aldi. Everything that was in the old 1978 brummer fits in, but I am not sure the little fridge will be big enough when guests are in the house. Still, if I never try I'll never know.
Little bar-fridge with big old 1978 model (which has a painting by Sam Sharpe of  Dunedin propped on top).

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Engobe Pot

My experience is that it takes time to evaluate your own works of art. Some paintings I've liked on completion remain my favorites, others get turned to the wall. It can work the other way as well.
I didn't like this little pot, an experiment with engobes, when I took it out of the kiln in Dunedin but now I find it rather cute. It is easier to evaluate others work and my teacher Jim liked this pot from the start. (That touch of green engobe was his stain.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Love of the Nightingale

Richard Mill's (pic below) opera The Love of the Nightingale was well worth going to the opera to see. It re-told a Greek myth, was very violent but also thought provoking. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. What had I been expecting I wonder?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Richard Mills

Tomorrow, Tuesday, I am looking forward to seeing Richard Mills conducting his own opera The Love of the Nightingale at the Sydney Opera House. It has got great reviews.
Richard Mills, sketched on 25 October at a 'Ring Cycle 2013'  function in Sydney.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Native Australian Plants

My long term project is to transform my front garden into a more useful space and today at the Woytopia Festival I joined the initiative to bring small birds back into the garden. In return I was given two native plants, a native Geranium and a Lomandra, a long leafed plant that has big spiky flowers the birds love.  Then I bought a rosemary plant to add some scent.
From left: ceramics made in Dunedin, then Geranium, Lomandra, and Rosemary 

What the tags say:
Pelargonium australe, Wild Geranium soft hairy sprawling perennial, tolerant of coastal conditions and sandy soils. Mauve flower heads appear Nov - May.
Lomandra longifolia, perennial to 1m. Glossy mid green foliage. Tolerant of sandy spoils. Full sun to part shade, well drained soils, benefits from extra water and fertiliser.
Rosemary: doesn't have a tag but my mother recommends that plants with sweet smelling leaves be planted near paths so you can touch the leaves as you pass and take the scent with you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Hot weather equals fishing-from-wharf weather. Yesterday was over 30C and this couple were sitting right on the end of the wharf to fish. Just as well they fished yesterday because today it is cold, windy and wet.
Fishing from the wharf at Patonga

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011

Last night I watched the NZ vs France Rugby World Cup final in a small local NSW pub, one of a group of four NZ supporters organised by an English woman whose partner was in New Zealand for the game. Apart from our group and two other New Zealand women, the whole audience cheered France and jeered New Zealand.
The French played a great game but the Aussie cheers weren't for good French play but against New Zealand; they even cheered when nasty injuries to NZ players were shown close up. I suppose their reaction was exacerbated because their own team was beaten by their little New Zealand cousins the weekend before but I was not prepared for the extent of the hostility.
New Zealander Piri Weepu in action (picture from the official RWC website)
Oh well, I suppose this is one of the reasons I have never been a great fan of football. I never heard one vioinist jeer another, regardless of the passion involved.

Perhaps we were just on the wrong side of the Tasman. In New Zealand the mood seems to have been a bit like that in Sydney during the Sydney Olympics. A party atmosphere and lots of visitors from as far away as  Ireland and Georgia.

Addendum: a NZ-based Englishman wrote a piece for the Telegraph about who to jeer/cheer for, he drew all sorts of crabs from the woodwork. You gotta laugh.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Life Drawing

Classes have finished for the year and I am  looking forward to some down-time. My last class was life drawing:
One minute sketches drawn while trying not to look at the paper
A bit of the more sustained drawing.
I am not sure whether I can show a life drawing on this site. Probably if I uploaded a violent movie no one would object. We live in an odd society.

Friday, October 21, 2011


In 2006 just before I left to study in NZ I bought a mobile phone, a Nokia, the simplest I could find at the time. It has just carked it ... the screen blacked out intermittantly.
As a result I am now the proud owner of an Android smartphone. It is very similar to a prototype I tried a couple of years ago ... but much smarter. Its also a good deal heavier than my wee Nokia, even without all the apps loaded.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ski fields are disappearing

Back in Australia the  newspapers are predicting the melting of Australia's snow fields if climate change progresses as predicted but...
politicians are still playing to climate change deniers.
Someone wrote a song about them:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Train to Sydney

Back to reality ...
... and back on a on the early morning train to Sydney. If you close your eyes it feels as if you are whipping along just like German trains. When you open your eyes you realise sounds can be deceiving and in fact you are trundling along... probably as fast as the tracks will allow.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Tulips on the wall

After several trips to the hardware store and lots of reading of the backs of packets of screws I have my first picture rail up and my first paintings hung.
Putting up picture rails taught me that it is a job for a more muscular person than I am who owns a more powerful drill than mine. I plan to have someone else put the other rails up but in the meantime I am pleased to have pictures on at least one wall.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Stud finder blues

I bought a stud finder yesterday and planned to put up my gallery system today but it is not as simple as one might imagine. In the dining room the stud finder found so many electric wires running along the tops of the walls I decided I had better not to touch it. The bedroom had more regular studs and no electric wires so I decided I could install picture rails there myself.
I went off to the building materials shop to get a drill bit (to drill holes in the metal picture rail) and appropriate screws. I asked a couple of blokes at the shop about building methods in the 1960s and whether the wiring was pulled along the top of the walls.
'Oh an old house could be built any way at all,” I was told.
“So what type of tradesman would hang gallery picture rails?”
"Oh just a handyman!".
I remembered the handyman who had cleaned out the gutters for me and said "Oh but he might not know much more than me!"
Both gentlemen looked appalled at the thought.
"Oh yes he would!" one of them said.
"Oh be careful" cautioned the boss, "are you saying she is stupid?"
We joked about that but I could tell I had hurt their feelings.
I explained that I was worried about the electrical wires and the boss gave me the name and number of a local builder. He looked very put out though, like a doctor whose patients who come in with information or misinformation off the Internet.
Its a new world they have to get used to, patients who think they know more than the doctors and women who think they might know as much as a handyman.
I left the shop without the drill bit or the information about whether to use dry wall or wood screws. (I think the latter.) Tomorrow I will go to the friendly little hardware shop in Umina and get the drill bit and I am sure I can find information about screws on the Internet!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Monday, October 03, 2011

Time shift

This morning when I woke my watch said 6am - 11 hours sleep. I got up, showered, ate breakfast, answered some email then looked at my watch again. It was 2am. I must have looked at it upside down earlier and when I thought it was 6am it was actually half past midnight. Jetlag does funny things to your system.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


It is 5:18 on the day after a long haul flight. I am struggling to keep my eyes open even though I slept 11 hours last night.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Wide awake on a long haul flight

Note to self:  If you have a late night long haul flight:
#1 don't drink a strong coffee the afternoon before and
#2 don't drink a beer in the airport before take off to help you sleep.
#1 + #2 = "shattered in Singapore"
Orchids in Singapore Airport

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dilsberg and Neckargemuend

Neckargemuend is an old and picturesque village on the Neckar River. From there you can see Bergfeste Dilsberg on the hill further along the river.
Dilsberg castle has a rampart at the top with a wonderful view ...
... right up the valley to Neckargemuend.

Nature's browns

Imagine trying to make these yourself!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rissen Reetdachhaus

The Tchibo coffee shop in Hamburg-Rissen looks out over one of the prettiest buildings in the village, this thatched roof house.
Today I sat having a coffee and admiring the building across the street; tomorrow I take the train south.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coffee pots at Gino's

I have an exhibition of work at Gino's Cafe in Rissen. This is one of the watercolours I have on the wall.

A Cafe in Uetersen

This cafe in Uetersen is one of the prettiest I have seen and
...when they bring your tea, they include a small wooden timer, so you know how long to let it draw.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sketches made along the River Elbe

The Herrenhäuser (mansions) along the Elbe are like a set of large white beads set in green satin.
On the other side of the river the landscape is dominated by huge cranes with windmills in the distance.
In the Hafenstadt (harbour city) the buildings that are not built of red bricks are grey. It sounds boring but the different grey/white/black contours are varied and interesting.
This quick sketch was made while waiting for Ferry #62 at the Hafenstadt and the ones above while sitting on the deck avoiding spray as the ferry ploughed its way through the water.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hamburg Harbour on the River Elbe

The heart of the city of Hamburg is its huge working harbour. The old warehouse buildings are restored and the whole precinct is a vibrant and visually interesting place to visit.
Container ships are loaded and unloaded in the high tech container harbour across the water, but the original old warehouses are being rennovated have new life as offices and apartments.
New buildings complement the old and look out over the rows of tug boats lined up ready to guide ships along the harbour.
Yesterday I took a trip along the Elbe with ferry line 62. Ferry line 62 is free if you have a day card for city rail and travels almost exactly the same line as the tourist boats.
The most eastern stop is at the new Elbphilharmonie.


Hamburg harbour has undergone a transformation in recent years as the old warehouses are rennovated. The most spectacular building of all is the new Elbphilharmonie which is being built on top of a warehouse that used to store cocoa. From the harbour it looks like as huge ship coming towards you along the river Elbe .
When you get closer you can see the wave shaped roof (middle section is still to be built).
The windows are all indivudually formed and glisten in the sun. It is spectacular and complements the other buildings in the harbour perfectly. The building was started in 2007 and when I saw it in 2009 when it was still just cranes on the horizon. There has been a recent hitch when it was discovered the hooks enabling window cleaners  to clean all those windows were left out. A bit like the Sydney Opera House, costs keep on inflating.